IDF radio had an excellent program with two psychologists, Dr. Edna Katzeneloson and Dr. Irit Cheruti, who answered caller's questions about how to deal with the stresses of our situation here in Israel.
They started with the introduction that according to research done here in Israel, 90% of people are able to deal with the stresses inherent in war-like environments without any professional help. Reacting with stress to emergencies is of course normal - but it is important to know that it will pass. In terms of how much information to give to children - a lot depends on their age, but in general it is important to try to explain things simply. Trying to ignore the situation is not a good idea - because they pick up things from other adults and other children. On the other hand, you should monitor what they see on tv and hear on the radio.
Now to specific questions from callers:
Q: How should I deal with small children (3 and 5) if we have to move to somewhere else?
A: You should explain in simple terms why you are leaving home, and that hopefully soon you will go back. Take a few things from home to make your temporary place a bit familiar.
Q: My daughter is 3 and a half, and until now she has spoken normally. After seeing me afraid after a rocket attack and hearing the booms, she has started to stutter. How should I react? [this one made me cry - ed.]
A: First, you should know that this is a common reaction to stress, and will probably go away by itself, especially since she spoke well before this. Second, have patience with her and don't finish her words for her. Talk about it and tell her this happens to other people and it will go away.
Q: What activities do you recommend to deal with stress? Music? Yoga?
A: Dealing with stress is an individual thing - and anything that makes you feel better is good. Music, physical activity, role playing (drama) and meditation are some ways to help you get through.
Q: My spouse is constantly on the tv looking at the news, and my reaction is to try to block it out. He is driving me crazy! How do I deal with this?
A: Each individual reacts differently, as you can see. Some people need to escape and some people need as much information as possible. Talk it over and explain that you need a break from the constant tv, and try to come up with a compromise.
Q: I have one older son in the army and a younger son who is very nervous, although we do not live in the north. What can I do to help him?
A: Your son is both worried about his older brother and worried about what might happen to himself. One, you should get your older son to speak to him and try to allay his fears. Two, you should give him activities to do to help around the house or to help the kids up north - perhaps packing care packages to send. Passivity sometimes makes it worse to deal with stress.
Q: We have a child with developmental disabilites and he won't enter the bomb shelter. What can we do?
A: Your problem is similar to those who have small children who sometimes react the same way. Try to do something pleasant while in the shelter so that he will associate it with something fun. Try to be calm but firm - but keep in mind that in all cases you are the parent and are in charge.